The place of fish farting in fish flirting and in international relations

June 22nd, 2017

The two independent research studies about herring farts gave different insights: one that fish probably use farting to communicate, the other that farting herrings in Stockholm harbor were mistakenly identified as Soviet submarines. Brian Owens appreciates these studies — their two sets of scientists shared the 2004 Ig Nobel Biology Prize — in an article in Hakai Magazine.

Owens’ article carries the headline “Quiet Please, the Fish Are Flirting — Fish that fart together stay together.”


Dirty Hands Make Dirty Leaders? (study)

June 22nd, 2017

Florien Cramwinckel Msc (Utrecht University, The Netherlands) researches how people respond to the moral behavior of others. As part of this remit, an experiment was devised in which 78 participants demonstrated how dirtiness versus cleanliness might influence moral behavior in leader–subordinate relationships :-

“They were asked touch, smell, and evaluate a dirty (fake poop) or clean (hygienic cleansing wipe) product and answer several questions about this product. These questions were how ‘‘handy,’’ ‘‘pretty,’’ ‘‘functional,’’ ‘‘nice,’’ ‘‘clean,’’ ‘‘dirty,’’ ‘‘useless,’’ ‘‘weird,’’ ‘‘funny,’’ and ‘‘realistic’’ they thought this product was (1 = not at all, 7 = completely). They also answered to what extent they would like to have this product, if they thought this product smelled nice, if they thought this product felt clean, if they would buy this product in a store and if they felt dirty after touching this product (1 = not at all, 7 = completely).”

Subsequent evaluation of the experimental results showed, amongst other things that :-

“ […] subtle cues such as bodily sensations can shape moral decision-making and behavior in leader–subordinate relationships, but selfinterest, as a core characteristic of interdependence, can override the influence of such cues on the leader’s moral behavior.”

See: Dirty Hands Make Dirty Leaders?! The Effects of Touching Dirty Objects on Rewarding Unethical Subordinates as a Function of a Leader’s Self-Interest. Journal of Business Ethics, Volume 115, Issue 1, pp 93-100,

Le Monde celebrates the work of double-Ig-Nobellian Toshi Nakagaki

June 20th, 2017

Le Monde celebrates the work of two-time Ig Nobel Prize winner Toshi Nakagaki [here auto-translated from French to English]. The report begins:

When ‘the blob’ develops according to the Tokyo rail network

In the small community of blob enthusiasts, Toshiyuki Nakagaki is a reference. But his fame goes far beyond that. His work on the unicellular Physarum polycephalum [slime mold] has earned him two IgNobels. Certainly, this award is not worth its prestigious elder. But to win this award – a mixture of incongruity and seriousness – is worth its weight in notoriety. So, twice …

In 2008, the jury first awarded the scientist of the University of Hokkaido for demonstrating that Physarum could emerge from a labyrinth. For an organism without brain or neurons, there was already enough to impress. Two years later, the Japanese biologist made even stronger: he highlighted the incredible ability of the blob to realize effective networks. For this, he reproduced, on a plaque covered with agar gel, the map of the Tokyo area. More precisely, he deposited oatmeal on the thirty-six main localities and installed the unicellular instead of the central station. And he waited….

Eggs (spinning) in milk – study

June 19th, 2017

Have you ever wondered why a hard-boiled egg, or a pool ball, spinning on a countertop and passing through a puddle of milk, draws milk up the side of the egg and then ejects it at the maximum radius? So did Ken Langley, Jeff Hendricks, Matthew Elverud, Dan Maynes and Tadd Truscott of Brigham Young University, US.

A hard-boiled egg spinning on a countertop and passing through a puddle of milk draws milk up the side of the egg and then ejects it at the maximum radius. This same phenomenon occurs for any partially submerged spinning object whose radius increases upward from the fluid surface (e.g., spheres, inverted cones, rings, etc.). In particular, spheres are used to investigate the behavior of this phenomenon and its sensitivity to experimental parameters. Three modes of ejection — jets, sheets, and sheet break-up — are identified, which are highly dependent on several parameters: viscosity, angular velocity, immersion depth of sphere, and sphere diameter. Experimental results are presented with comparisons to a theoretical model that is derived using integral conservation of momentum. This phenomenon can be used as a pump to easily remove fluids from shallow areas.”

See: ‘Eggs in Milk: The Conclusion’ presented at the 64th Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics, Volume 56, Number 18, , 2011. Further details of the investigation, including the photo above, are provided by Tadd Truscott.


Do Pimples Pay? Apparently they do (new study)

June 16th, 2017

“We find that the shock of having acne is positively associated with overall grade point average in high school, grades in high-school English, history, math, and science, and the completion of a college degree.“

– explain Professor Hugo Mialon (Emory University) and Professor Erik Nesson (Ball State University) who are the authors of a new study which, for the first time, explores the relationship between having acne and subsequent academic and workplace success.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) , the authors discovered an association – and, having found the association, they go on to speculate that perhaps the ‘decreased socialization’ associated with acne might (somehow) lead to higher educational performance and attainment.

See: ‘Do Pimples Pay? Acne, Human Capital, and the Labor Market’ Emory University Working Paper, May 2017

Also see: Wedding spending and marriage duration, linked? (co-authored by professor Mialon).

Photo (detail): courtesy Roshu Bangal, Wikipedia